The Life of a Redshirt Athlete

It is Sunday game night against Pacifica College, and UC Irvine men’s basketball team is shooting hoops and doing drills before the game. sophomore center, Conor Clifford, and junior forward, Shawn Ray, can be seen coming out from the locker room dressed up in polo shirts and training pants to support their team with coaches. Although Clifford and Ray are part of the team, they are not playing for 2013-2014 season because they were redshirted.

“I was recruited through summer tournaments that JCs [Junior Colleges] had hosted where college coaches have come to check our play,” Ray said. “Coach saw me in one of those tournaments and he kept following up and gave me a call to join the team.”

Ray, a former power forward at El Camino College was recruited by Coach Turner during summer league tournaments. With many junior college players competing against each other so they can successfully transfer to Division 1 schools, Ray showed his consistency by averaging 18 points per game during his last season in El Camino. Seeing how Ray can become a potential power forward for UC Irvine men’s basketball program, the coaching staff successfully recruited him. Although Ray became the part of UC Irvine basketball team, the staff decided to redshirt him so he could gradually adapt to playing Division 1 basketball.

“For me, Coach Turner decided to sit me out because I needed the time, adjustment from JC level to Division 1 level,” Ray said. “Since Division 1 is much more fast-paced and more physical, coach and his staff wanted to make sure that I was ready for Division 1 games by focusing more in training rather than playing right away.”

Although Ray and Clifford cannot play in 2013-2014 season, since they were given an extra year to play, they are given an opportunity to focus more in improving their fundamental skills and their body for the next season. While other players are focused on playing their best in all their matches, Ray and Clifford are able to concentrate on staying in shape, practicing their drills, and getting bigger and stronger for next season.

“What people don’t understand is that the game may sound only like playing for 20 to 30 minutes, it demands even more from you,” Clifford said. “Playing in Division 1 strains a lot of energy and wears down players mentally, emotionally, and physically, so we are able to work out and improve ourselves to top shape so we can deal with it better in next season.”

Along with the opportunity to focus on their health and skills, Clifford and Ray have more time to focus on their grades compared to other regular players. Since Clifford and Ray are not subject to traveling around to compete in away games, they use this as an opportunity to boost their grades and fully concentrate in their classes.

“Redshirt year is not only time to improve our skills but also the time to focus on our grades,” Clifford said. “If I played and traveled around for this season, I would not be able to study for hard classes I am taking right now so having that year to have our studies is great.”

Clifford and Ray do admit that sitting out for a year is not the most pleasant experience but it does  toughen them up for the challenges they will be facing next season. With the time to train and adjust to Division 1 standards, Clifford and Ray are hopeful that they can become better players and contribute to UC Irvine’s program.

“Although being redshirt[ed] is not always a pleasing experience for everyone, I fully trust my coaching staff and I know that they did it in my interest and the team’s interest,” Clifford said. “Every year I get better and I want my senior year to be the best season, and I am looking forward to what I will have to face in future.”